This study aimed to determine the influence of sorghum ensiled with unsalable pumpkin at 20 or 40% dry matter (DM) basis on rumen fermentation characteristics and rumen microbial communities using the rumen simulation technique (RUSITEC). The experiment used a completely randomised design including silages comprising (1) 100% sorghum; (2) 80% sorghum + 20% DM pumpkin; or (3) 60% sorghum + 40% DM pumpkin. Each RUSITEC run (n = 2) was 15 d long, including 6 d of adaptation and 9 d of sampling. Dry matter digestibility (DMD) was measured on d 8 and 10-13. Gas production was measured daily, whereas methane and volatile fatty acids (VFA) production were measured from d 7-15. Solid-associated microbes (SAM) were collected on d 5, 10 and 15, whereas liquid-associated microbes (LAM) were collected after 15-d incubation. The V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene and the ITS1 region were sequenced to identify archaeal, bacterial and fungal communities. Ensiling 40% DM pumpkin with sorghum increased DMD and decreased the ratio of acetate to propionate (P ≤ 0.01). Both bacterial SAM and LAM communities were dominated by Megasphaera, and had the highest relative abundance (P = 0.03) with 40% DM pumpkin after 5 d incubation in the SAM community, while species of the Aspergillus genus dominated fungal SAM and LAM communities with 20 or 40% DM unsalable pumpkin. Therefore, ensiling up to 40% DM unsalable pumpkin with sorghum produces a high-quality ruminant feed with minimal influence on the rumen microbial population. KEY POINTS: • Including 40% DM unsalable pumpkin decreased acetate:propionate • Ensiling unsalable pumpkin with sorghum increases digestibility in a RUSITEC • Rumen microbial communities were slightly influenced by unsalable pumpkin inclusion.
Keywords: Microbial diversity; RUSITEC; Rumen fermentation; Unsalable vegetables.